Crafting More Accessible Google Slides

With Google Slides, you can easily keep your presentation dynamically up-to-date and share your content with a broad audience. Ensure your content is clear, usable, and accessible for everyone, including those who use assistive technology.

Note: Click any of the listed topics to jump to that section below!

In each of these sections, we describe an important concept to implement, why it has an impact on your audience, and offer some tips to incorporate these concepts in your Google Slide content.

Provide good reading order and contextual cues

You may already understand the importance of using good heading structure in your digital documents. Unfortunately, Google Slides does not currently support the same heading styles as Google Docs.

To compensate, it is important to pay attention to the reading order of your various slide elements and deliver them in the most logical order for everyone. Those using assistive technology, such as screen readers, may navigate by tabbing through a slide. It is crucial to ensure the tabbing order reflects the intended visual reading sequence. When assistive technology users encounter slide elements that are not in the intended order, your important message might be confusing or cause frustration.

By default, elements you add to a blank slide will be layered in the order in which they are added to each slide and this will be reflected in the tabbing reading order. Since it is common to rearrange slide elements visually, it is important to test that the tabbing reading order matches the intended visual order. You can test that the reading order will be the same for everyone by tabbing through each slide and following the focus indicator to be sure the tabbing order matches your intended and visual reading sequence!

You can also add titles to each slide to accentuate your theme and make it easier for all to quickly understand your message. The use of landmarks, such as slide numbering, can also help your audience navigate your presentation more easily.

How to implement it

Arrange the elements for good reading order

  1. Test the tabbing reading order of a slide by using the tab key. Each time you press the tab key, the next item will be selected (including with a visual focus indicator), showing the reading order. The slide elements will be read from the back (bottom layer) to the front (top layer). Edit the Order for any items that don’t appear in the same logical order for both visual and tabbing order engagement.
  2. Click the object you want to move backward (read sooner) or forward (read later).
  3. Click the Arrange menu in the Google Slides menu bar and go to the Order submenu, then select either Move Forward (CTRL + up arrow) to make the item be read later or Send Backward (CTRL + down arrow) to read it sooner.
    • You can also right-click on an element to navigate to the Order menu to move items Forward or Backward, or to the Back (very first in reading order) or Front (very last in reading order).

Add a title to each slide

  1. Many templates will offer a text box at the top of each slide for the slide title.
  2. If no title box is supplied by a template, use the Insert menu to add a text box. Use the Order menu to ensure it will be read first on the slide by moving it to the back of the reading order (see above for how to change the reading order of elements).

Add slide numbers

  1. Select the Insert menu and navigate to and select Slide Numbers.
  2. Apply Slide numbers to all slides or choose to skip the title slide.
  3. Generally, page numbers should be last in the reading order.
  4. You can reformat the size, placement, and color contrast of the numbers on all or some slide types by navigating to the Slide menu and choosing the Edit Theme menu for layout options.

Share the meaning of images

All images that you share should be accompanied by text to convey their meaning. This ensures that everyone, including those using assistive technology, has access to the information you intend to share.

If the description can be brief, provide meaningful alt text for the image. Your alt text should convey, as concisely as possible, the meaning you hope your audience receives from the image.

If your image is complex or requires a longer description to convey the meaning (such as a screenshot of a workflow), include the longer description as associated text on the slide and a brief alt text note.

If your image in Google Slides is truly decorative and conveys no additional meaning within the slide, like a decorative section divider, you can add the word “decorative” as alt text.

How to implement it

Add alt text

  1. Right-click on your image and select Alt Text.
  2. Type your alt text in the Description field (not the Title field) in the Alt Text dialog box.
  3. Click OK to save your alt text.

When a longer description is needed for a complex image

  1. Enter a brief note in the Alt Text Description field that states that the full description is included in the slide’s text.
  2. On the slide itself, provide text that shares the lengthier meaning being conveyed by that image.
    • For example, if an image is a screenshot of how to take steps in a workflow, add text on the slide that makes it possible for someone to understand those steps and the navigation without access to the image. The alt text on that screenshot image may be as simple as “screenshot of workflow described in the instructions on this slide.”

Craft structured lists

Lists using numbers or bullet points make it easier for many readers to quickly navigate and understand your message. These types of lists convey valuable structure to assistive technology such as screen readers, which will announce the type of lists and the number of elements within. Structured lists provide the same context to those who can and cannot see the visual formatting. Ensure you choose formatted bulleted or numbered lists rather than just using simple visual formatting to indicate collections of items.

How to implement it

  1. In your Google Slides presentation, click in the text box where you want to add a list.
  2. In the toolbar, choose a list type. If you can’t find the option, click More. List options include Numbered list or Bulleted list.
    • To create a list from existing text, be sure to highlight the specific text first before selecting a list type.
  3. To start a list inside a list, press Tab. The new list will be indented.
  4. To go back to paragraph text and end the list, press Enter twice.
  5. For more information, visit this Google help article about adding and customizing lists.

Use strong color contrast

Good color contrast makes text and images easier to understand for everyone in your audience, including those with low vision or who have a color vision deficiency. For example, dark gray text on a white background has better contrast and is more legible than light gray text on a white background. When your background and text do not have sufficient contrast, your audience may find it more difficult or fatiguing to read your content.

How to implement it

  1. Use WebAIM’s Contrast Checker to determine if your presentation elements have good color contrast. You can compare your actual color hex codes (foreground and background) or use the Lightness sliders in the color picker to manually simulate your color ratio.
    • Find the hex codes of your colors in Google Slides by clicking “Custom” in the Text Color and/or Fill Color menu, located in the formatting toolbar.
  2. Choose a simple slide background, without busy images or multiple colors, to more easily create good color contrast for your text.
  3. To learn more about the impact of color contrast visit Easy Checks from W3C – Color Contrast and Colors with Good Contrast from the W3C.

Be thoughtful about how you use color

Color alone should not be used to convey significant information. Using color as the only indicator can mean members of your audience, such as those with color vision deficiencies, may not receive your meaning.

If you use color as an indicator, also provide an additional cue for meaning. For example, rather than relying on two stars that only differ in their color, you can use a green checkmark and a red x or, better yet, use text to convey the same meaning as the color signals. If the meaning of your slides can be understood even if the slides were converted to black and white, you have probably avoided using color alone to indicate meaning.

How to implement it

  1. When using color in your slide creation, be certain that any meaning is presented through an additional means beyond the color difference.
    • The best option is to use additional text to convey the meaning that the color also represents.

Think about your font formatting, size, and style

Make your text as legible and understandable as possible. Important visual indicators such as boldface or highlighting are usually not conveyed to assistive technology, including screen readers. To make sure no one misses meaningful cues shared by formatting, avoid relying on visual formatting alone to communicate meaning within your presentation and include another indicator of what you are trying to convey.

The text on your slides will be most legible if you choose clean and simple fonts with letters that are distinct. Some ornate or complex fonts may be less legible and can lead to increased fatigue or focus challenges.

Providing text in a size that supports legibility is important! The minimum legible text size will depend somewhat on how you are presenting, for example, sharing the slide deck for individual viewing vs. projecting slides in a physical space. A good guiding principle is to try to minimize the amount of text on a given slide and maximize the size of the text without overcrowding.

How to implement it

  1. For text that conveys additional meaning through visual formatting such as through highlights, italics, or bold, add in words to share the meaning that you are conveying with the visual formatting cue.
    • For instance, if you are indicating a section is important by highlighting it yellow, also add the word “Important” before the section. Doing this will help everyone, including those reading with screen readers, to understand the section is noteworthy.
  2. Choose simple fonts that have letters that are not easily confused with each other and avoid highly ornate fonts.
  3. Make headings and titles larger than other text.
  4. Reduce the amount of text on a slide to be able to increase text size without overcrowding.
  5. Select text sizes to maximize legibility regardless of where and how you present them.

Support your audience!

Improve the chances that your audience will be able to successfully engage with your materials, across a diverse range of technology, engagement methods, and abilities, by providing them with options.

How to implement it

  1. Share your slide deck with the audience before or during your presentation, rather than just displaying the slides onscreen. This allows your audience to review the material at their own pace and opens up the possibility to engage with the material in different ways.
  2. Share some tips with your audience for easier navigation:
    • Your audience can access your Google Slide presentation in HTML view, which might be beneficial for various learners or audience members. The HTML view places your entire presentation in a single scrollable HTML page, eliminating the need to manually switch slides. This is an especially helpful feature for those using screen readers. Users can access a presentation in HTML view by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + p in Windows or Chrome OS, and ⌘ + Option + Shift + p on the Mac.
    • In a slide deck, users can engage by using page-up/page-down and the up and down arrow keys to quickly change slides.
    • Provide the complete list of keyboard shortcuts for Google Slides to your audience to enhance their ability to navigate.

This resource was created by members of the Accessible Content Working Group